Article | 29 May 2024

UK Snap Election: Why It’s Time To Invest in Public Affairs Expertise

Posted in PR and Communications, Industry news, Learning,

Millions of voters will head to the polls on 4 July to determine the future make-up of the UK Parliament, and, as a consequence, the future of our position in global markets.

For British businesses or those trading in the region, this means there is some uncertainty ahead. Any change in government results in new challenges, priorities and opportunities, and may influence how brands operate regionally and further afield.

Whether you expect a direct or indirect impact on your organisation, it's worth preparing for potential shifts.

So as party leaders kick-off their election campaigns, here's why it's time to invest in your public affairs strategy, and how the right expertise will help you navigate the coming months.

Trade Relations, Regulations & Policy: What the Election Could Mean 

At time of writing, the majority of us are leaning on trends and projections to help predict what the outcomes of the 2024 election could be - and what those results mean moving forward.

‘Maybes’ and ‘what ifs’ aside, most businesses acknowledge that reform is a likely outcome. How a government department  approaches its agendas can have a significant effect on business policy and regulations.

Access to trade routes are a prime example of this. While non-EU deals have been a key priority of the current administration, a new administration may focus on revisiting deals within the EU. This may lead to revised regulations, new markets, and tariff fluctuations.

Sustainability-related regulations are also set to be a key focus for any incoming ministry, particularly in relation to ‘green’ energy and investments.

While it’s important not to become too speculative, it’s just as critical to adequately prepare your business. Change is change - and that means reflecting that in your operations. Which is precisely where the public affairs function comes in.

"Public affairs isn't just about politics, it’s also about how government works, and focuses on ways to influence public policy. When it comes to a General Election, good public affairs advice helps an organisation prepare for a new government, understand its motivations and people, and best plan to have an impact on it.” - Stuart Thomson, CWE Communications

Investing In Public Affairs Expertise

Investing in public affairs expertise means investing in key preparation tactics. And help ensure businesses come out the other side stronger and better positioned in the new political landscape.

Pre-Election Period

Prior to 4 July, a Public Affairs Specialist will seek to offer strategic direction for business’ external and internal relations.

Specialists typically have an extensive network of individuals - from government contacts, to those in regulatory bodies, to public relations professionals - to liaise with during this time. They’ll work to influence proposed policies in the best interests of your business and stakeholders, and establish your organisation as a contributing partner in both existing and potential legislation.

An important aspect of this function is to drive appropriate and effective lobbying. That means navigating compliance considerations like engaging in political activities or events, or reviewing political expenditure or donations.

“Organisations which choose not to invest in public affairs are failing to manage their risks and playing fast and loose with their reputations." - Stuart Thomson, CWE Communications

Much of the value a specialist brings at this time is to a business’ internal affairs. Mitigating and minimising risk - as well as leveraging opportunity - requires extensive planning for any and all eventuality, regardless of poll predictions. These ‘best’ and ‘worst’ case scenarios will provide an in-depth view of how differing results may impact a business, and the ways in which it could be required to adapt.

Similarly, the specialist will work closely alongside key teams - finance, legal, PR and communications - to plan any adjustments they may need to consider to their strategies.

Peak Election Season

In the weeks immediately leading up to the election, monitoring and managing the evolving landscape will become increasingly important. A specialist will adjust those scenarios to reflect current sentiment and predictions, and continue to work alongside its organisation to adjust strategies and plan for potential change.

Political parties will be well into campaigns, meaning specialists will be assessing their manifestos, comparing policies, and analysing how these could further affect a business’ objectives, particularly commercially.

Depending on the sector your organisation operates, the run up to the election may also mean a ‘downing of tools’ in certain areas (usually if your business had planned governmental activity or campaigning), leaving additional resource to focus on a post-election response. Here is where the public affairs function will continue to influence internal strategy with the aim of having said responses primed and ready.

Post-Election & Beyond

Following the election, a public affairs specialist will have numerous focuses for your business, in particular driving the opportunities the results could produce and mitigating any risk associated with the outcome.

The first 100 days of a new government is key. A specialist will help you respond and take action, establish strategic partnerships with political stakeholders, and adjust internal operations. They may also support establishing new connections between your PR team and relevant individuals, as a change in government may mean losing your existing rota of contacts.

If there were bills which fell into dissolution prior to 30 May (when Parliament dissolves), the incoming government may now choose whether or not to reintroduce them. If this legislation is of critical importance, a specialist will shift their attention to lobbying in the best interests of your business.

More broadly, this is where the scenario planning will come into effect. With skilled public affairs expertise, businesses will already be equipped to tackle risk, cultivate opportunities, and strategically move into the new term.

2024: A New Chapter?

The UK's not the only country in the middle of an election year. 2024 is an historical election year with some 1.5 billion citizens heading to the polls, and voting taking place in at least 64 countries around the world.

We might be in a season of ‘sit-and-wait’ right now, but for businesses in the UK or further afield, the election year could set the scene for a very new act. Reputationally, this is also a critical time for organisations operating more globally, or those eyeing new regions and markets.

Any governmental changes are likely to result in changes to policy, regulation, international relations or all of the above. Investing in public affairs expertise won't give you a crystal ball, but it will help you adequately prepare and strategize for what might lie ahead.

The right public affairs specialist will be adept at projection and trend identification, have an expansive network across trade, policy, governments and partnering organisations, and help position your brand in the new landscape ahead.

With our network of over 5,000 specialists, consultants and independents, we can help you source, hire and manage your public affairs expertise today. Interim, advisory or FTC, we can help with that. Get in touch today.